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Low-cost city break of the week: MM’s guide to canals, coffee shops and sights about Amsterdam

By Ben Ireland

It’s that time of year again… With the gloomy weather descending on Manchester, and an international airport on the doorstep, MM looks into cheap and cheerful city getaways to escape the ominous doom and gloom.

This week, Amsterdam is our destination of choice, and we’ve got some treats in store for you.

Now Amsterdam has always been synonymous with the coffee shop culture, but if that isn’t exactly your, ahem, cup of tea, the city is a thriving metropolis of history and architecture which boasts an exciting nightlife as well.

Here are a few must see sights, and quirky aspects about the Dutch capital:

Many a gentleman’s brow may be cast over the pages of travel guides that say the infamous red light district is a must see.

Ladies fear not, MM’s experience can confirm the area is not as seedy as you would think – throughout the day time at least.

Contrary to popular belief, the district is not just contaminated with stag do types looking for a dirty weekend away, but many women (and even children) are there for a look.

The laid-back Dutch philosophy really shines through here, which is evident with the relaxed attitude and open approach to what is considered a perfectly justifiable career choice in the Netherlands.

You have to see it to believe it!

But no holiday is complete without some sort of water-based excursion.

In Amsterdam’s case, the canals prove the perfect setting for a day of relaxed (or not) sightseeing – however be cautious to avoid the guide boats.

Many are overpriced, and despite their claims to see all the ‘best’ spots on the canal network, some are limited when compared to the freedom of hiring your own boat.

Now, the sensible option would be a pedal-boat – they are cheap, fun and easy to navigate – but if you’re really looking for a thrill, the clear winner in the boat race has to be your very own speedboat.

Not all companies will rent them out to just anyone, but with a little persuasion you can get an afternoon’s worth of naval excitement within and beyond the city’s canals for a mere €50 per boat.

To really dip into Dutch culture, all you need to do is get on yer bike – Amsterdam is the home of the bicycle, and when you get there you sure can tell.

You can reach practically anywhere in the city in a short space of time using a bicycle, and it’s almost effortless.

Cycle lanes straddle every road, and the mountains of bikes stacked up around the central areas are a sight to behold.

You can rent a bicycle almost anywhere and if you shop around they can be quite cheap.

Museums are a mainstay of a city break, and Amsterdam certainly offers choice.

The more popular choices include the Van Gogh museum for art lovers and the Heineken museum for the beer drinkers.

But the must-see attraction is the house of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl whose family was hidden away from Nazi occupiers in a small, secret annex during WWII.

Restored by her father, you really experience the sense of claustrophobia that, accompanied by haunting lines from her heart-wrenching diary, leaves you with a poignant sense of admiration for the whole family’s enduring tale.

For a museum experience that caters for the more hardened tourist, why not check out the Torture museum?

It isn’t the longest tour going, but your eyes are certainly opened. Medieval devices for public punishment and humiliation aren’t everyone’s favourite viewing experience, but MM suggest it for alternative entertainment.

The above is merely the tip of the Amsterdam iceberg. The city has an endless array of activities to suit every punter and to begin your own trip to the city, you can book and compare a range of flights to Amsterdam using fly.co.uk to begin your getaway.

From couples and families to lads and ladettes, the Dutch capital can cater for all and guarantees you’ll come back craving more.

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